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City buys former Baker buildings

Will develop apartments

Staff writers

Peabody City Council voted Monday to purchase six former Baker Furniture buildings in the 100 block of North Walnut Street for $100,000. The city plans to conduct a $2 million renovation of the buildings, which will include adding second-floor apartments, to attract businesses.

“This was an important thing to do for the community,” City Administrator Mac Manning said. “It was a bold move that needed to be done.”

The purchase of the buildings will be financed mostly with money from the sale of the former industrial park on U.S. 50 and a $20,000 grant from Kansas Main Street Association. The renovation will be financed by selling housing and historic preservation tax credits.

“Whether it is a community or an individual or a building, everything is either growing or dying — everything,” city council member David Scott said. “There is no in-between. I think this is a positive move for everyone in Peabody. It will promote growth in other areas and have a positive impact on the community’s future.”

Baker Furniture vacated the buildings in late 2009. A developer from Kansas City expressed an interest in redeveloping the buildings, but bowed out when he got busy with bigger projects.

“We were all stunned when Bakers decided to move to Newton, even though many of us had wondered for years what would happen when they retired or sold out,” Mayor Larry Larsen said. “This opportunity will let us control our own fate and the fate of our downtown buildings. Now that this first step is done, we can move forward and grab the opportunity.”

“I’m really excited about the development team we’ve put together,” Peabody Economic Development Director Shane Marler said Tuesday.

Marler has been working with Christy Davis of Davis Preservation of Topeka, preparing an application for housing tax credits. Davis Preservation will also assist with the development.

Treanor Architects P.A. of Topeka is the architect for the project, and Midwest Housing Equity Group of Topeka will sell the tax credits on the city’s behalf.

The development will include building 13 second-floor apartments, with a total of 17 bedrooms, above the storefronts, Marler said. A housing market study determined Peabody has a shortage of affordable housing.

The council’s intention is to remain the long-term owner of the buildings and lease out the storefronts to businesses. The city will contract with a third party to manage the apartments, Marler said.

The city will have more information on the housing tax credit allocation in the spring, and construction is planned to begin in late 2011.

In other business:

  • Marilyn Jones presented information on an application to have the floral exhibit hall at the city park nominated to the Kansas State Historical Society’s register of historic places. Known as “the round house,” the building was built in 1881 and is used for storing park equipment. The council approved an endorsement in support of the nomination.
  • The council reviewed letters from the county commission and local school district vetoing the proposed tax increment fund district for the city. County Commissioner Randy Dallke was present and offered his reasons for voting to deny the project for Peabody.
  • After a review of services available from Microcomm for the water tower telemetry system and the city’s own insurance policy, council members opted not to renew the service contract.
  • Council members accepted the resignation of court clerk Cindy Harms.
  • Police Chief Bruce Burke will purchase court management software with $1,000 from the department’s diversion fund and $2,590 from the city.
  • Burke will attend background investigation training March 28 and 29 in Wichita and death and homicide investigation training April 20 through 22 in Overland Park.
  • Justin Weerts will attend training in methamphetamine cases and breath analysis technology.
  • After an executive session with Burke, the council voted to accept with regret the resignation of police officer Brad Cady, effective Feb. 28.
  • A motion for Burke to review and attend training sessions he deems beneficial to his own education and that of his officers without requiring permission from the city council was approved.
  • The council tabled the purchase of dialers for the Olive Street lift station and the lift station in the northeast corner of Peabody for $4,894 until a future meeting.
  • Also tabled was a decision on moving the Olive Street lift station as requested by Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Public Works director Darren Pickens presented a bid from Middlecreek Inc. for $8,200 to do the trenching and move the station, which is attached to the Olive Street bridge. The finance committee will seek funding in next year’s budget for the project.
  • Council members heard a planning and zoning report from planning board chairman Jim Rippe. The committee has scheduled a public hearing for March 21to present the updated re-zoning ordinance. Rippe also told the council that planning and zoning would be re-visiting the free lots program to clarify some issues.

The next regularly scheduled meeting is Feb. 14.

Last modified Feb. 2, 2011

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